Courses: First-Year Seminars

College of Arts & Sciences | First-Year Seminars | Courses: First-Year Seminars

First-Year Seminars offered Fall 2018 are listed in order of the Core Area they meet.

Core A1 / Core A2 / Core B1 / Core B2 / Core C1 / Core C2 / Core D1 / Core D2 / Core D3 / Core E / Core F

Questions can also be addressed to the First-Year Seminar Program Coordinator, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Academic Assistant Dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, Jeffrey Paris.

Fall 2018 Courses

Core A1 - Public Speaking

COMS 195-02 Sports Talk
CRN # 42435
John Ryan
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 10:30–11:35 a.m.

Sports Talk uses the world of sports to investigate public discourse. You will use the rhetoric of athletes, coaches, owners, and fans as a springboard into the study of public speech and public communication. The class emphasizes a critical approach as students immerse themselves in the history of sports communication from the early twentieth century up to the present. Students will have the opportunity to explore the historical and social changes that have been inspired by our national fascination with sports. We will visit local venues and examine what these facilities say about our priorities and our values.

Core A2 - Rhetoric and Composition

ENVA 195-01 Golden Gate Park
CRN #40947
David Silver
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m.

Golden Gate Park is a First-Year Seminar that explores the history, built environment, mixed uses, and popular narratives of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. As part of an accelerated writing seminar, students will research, write, and edit their ways through the park – writing in journals, sharing photography on Instagram, and writing and contributing to park-related entries on Wikipedia. Through readings, class discussions, park walks, and field trips, students will develop a broad and keen appreciation of Golden Gate Park and the dynamic importance of public space.

RHET 195-01 Writing About Human Rights
CRN #42540
Julie Sullivan
Tue. & Thu. 8:00–9:45 a.m.

What does it mean to have rights? Do all humans share equal access to these rights? And, if they do, then why do we see human rights violations go unpunished throughout the world, including in our own country? In this class we will explore the sometimes broad and overwhelming topic of Human Rights through the different forms of media available. Based on timeliness and interest, the course will explore Human Rights issues in areas such as: Criminal Justice, Employment, Education, Gender equity, Healthcare, Hunger, and Immigration. This class requires all involved to be learners, teachers, and individuals willing to voice concerns and create awareness. How you choose to vocalize will be up to you.

RHET 195-03 Language and Power
CRN # 40460
Brian Komei Dempster
Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

This FYS examines the rhetoric of nationalism and the ways in which language and power are entwined. We will discursively analyze a diverse range of texts (laws, photographs, advertisements, films): who writes these texts, for what purpose, and with what agenda? How do we analyze past events through the lens of historical context and also current perspectives? How does inclusion/exclusion of certain events, perspectives, and voices impact the outcome of different texts? With a specific focus on how the rhetoric of nationalism has affected (and continues to affect) Asian Pacific Americans, we will link these discourses with other contexts within the U.S. and abroad and consider why issues of cultural (mis)representation must be addressed as we strive for social justice. Together with guest speakers and trips to local sites, we will critically discuss language and power, interact with primary and secondary sources, and craft papers in response to these course themes.

RHET 195-04 Race, Media, and Popular Culture
CRN # 42443
Regina Arnold
Mon. & Wed. 4:45–6:25 p.m.

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, many believed that we had entered an idyllic “post race” society. This, however, has not been the case, as countless comedy routines and political advertisements remind us on a daily basis. From professional sports to the VMA awards, race makes itself known, creating statements that are well worth examining in a classroom setting. That is why this course examines the way that race gets performed in American popular culture. The course combines the study of literary texts by authors like Toni Morrison, Sherman Alexie and Junot Diaz with poems, speeches, films, video memes, and rap music in order to study the way that language, drama, and visual arts can enable historically marginalized individuals to articulate traumatic experiences, protest unjust conditions, and reshape others' perceptions. In addition, students will have the opportunity to attend several local theater and dance company performances.

RHET 195-05 Writing About Movements
CRN # 42618
Michael Rozendal
Tue. & Thu. 4:35–6:20 p.m.

The world changes through persuasion, through performance, through movement. This course will consider the provocation of global liberation movements that have resonated from the 20th to the 21st century and at times animated the local San Francisco Bay Area. This will fuel our classroom community’s attention to writing and research throughout the semester as our course satisfies the Core A2 (Academic Writing) requirement.  Our course will bridge rigorous reading, extensive discussion, exploration of San Francisco, inquiry into contemporary social justice movements, and techniques from the emerging digital humanities to synthesize these disparate concerns.  Over the semester, students will analyze key texts and speeches from the likes of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Edward Said. More locally, they will consider the late sixties Indian Occupation of Alcatraz and the San Francisco State Strike. Moving toward our present moment, we will consider some of the (dis)connections between movements like Occupy Wall Street and Idle No More.

Core B1 - Mathematics

MATH 195-01 Math and "the Impossible"
CRN #42818
John Stillwell
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 10:30–11:35 a.m.

This course is a novel introduction to mathematics and its history. It puts the difficulties of the subject upfront by enthusiastically tackling the most important ones: the seemingly impossible concepts of irrational and imaginary numbers, the fourth dimension, curved space, and infinity. Similar "impossibilities" arise in music, art, literature, philosophy, and physics - as we will see - but math has the precision to separate actual impossibilities from those that  are merely apparent. In fact, "impossibility" has always been a spur to the creativity of mathematicians, and a major influence on the development of math. By focusing reason and imagination on several apparent impossibilities, the course aims to show interesting math to students whose major may  be in another field, and to widen the horizons of math students whose  other courses are necessarily rather narrowly focused.

Core B2 - Laboratory Science

BIOL 195-01 & BIOL 195L-11 Good Germs, Bad Germs, w/Lab
CRN # 40667 & 40668
Juliet Spencer
Tue. & Thu. 8:00–9:15 a.m., & Thu. 12:45-2:30 p.m. Lab

You may consider yourself human, but in fact there are many more bacterial cells in your body than there are human cells. This introductory course examines the science of microbiology and its impact on the human condition.  Some disease-causing microbes have led to tremendous suffering throughout history, while other microbes provide us with astonishing benefits, such as antibiotics to cure disease and the ability to absorb nutrients and vitamins.  Special emphasis is placed on topics that relate to San Francisco, such as the production of sourdough bread and ecology of the bay, and these will be combined with field trips.  In addition, the laboratory provides an inquiry-based, hands-on approach to examining the diversity of microbes and their application in human health, genetics and biotechnology, food and antibiotic production, agriculture and the environment.  Each topic provides a basis for discussion of current issues where microbes play a role.

PHYS 195-01 The Extreme Universe
CRN # 41336
Aparna Venkatesan
Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m., & Thu. 2:40-3:40 p.m.

Astronomy and the night sky have always held interest for us as human beings. In this course, we will learn about some of the fascinating theoretical breakthroughs and observational discoveries of modern astronomy. These have revealed the dynamic universe we live in and its extreme environments and phenomena, raising intriguing questions on the nature of time and space, black holes, how we define a planet, hot Jupiters around other stars, asteroid impacts on Earth, dark matter, dark energy, the possibility of life on other worlds, and even of other universes. We will explore these and other topics through classes, as well as field trips to Bay Area planetaria and on-campus night observation sessions. There is no science prerequisite for this course.  Just bring your curiosity and willingness to enjoy learning about our extreme universe!

Core C1 - Literature

CMPL 195-01 Beauty of the Beast
CRN # 40775
Anne Mairesse
Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

This seminar focuses on the representation of animals in Literature. Animals for writers are tools to explore issues related to a particular social, cultural or political context. To invoke animals questions what is human and what's not. In this seminar students compare animal imageries in novels, short stories, plays, and poems, in light of essays from various disciplines such as anthropology, philosophy, animal studies, which invite them to rethink their relation to the animal world. [This course also meets the "CD" or Cultural Diversity requirement.]

ENGL 195-01 Shakespeare
CRN # 40913
Carolyn Brown
Mon. & Wed. 4:45–6:30 p.m.

The class concentrates on an appreciation of the literary and cultural greatness of Shakespeare, with the primary focus being on reading eight of his plays. We will look at the literary, historical, social, and cultural influences on his plays and his recognition of the decline of medieval values and the beginning of the modern world.  We will explore the moral judgments he leads his readers to formulate on topics such as  misogyny; domestic violence; the battle of the sexes; the marriage market; male anxieties about women; female empowerment; prejudice based on race, gender, and religious orientation; political "ethics"; social conformity; cross-dressing; fortune versus love; justice and the legal system; and envy and jealousy.  The class will enjoy several extra-curricular events: a visit to both the Rare Book Room in Gleeson Library and the Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park; and a performance by the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival Touring Company.

ENGL 195-02 Jane Austen, Now & Then
CRN # 40914
Ana Rojas
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 1:00 p.m.–2:05 p.m.

“Run mad as often as you choose, but do not faint!” warns a character in Jane Austen’s Love and Freindship. For an author who lived more than 200 years ago, Austen remains incredibly popular and her writing retains a vivid hold on the imagination. This course explores Austen’s enduring popularity and the relationship between her work and its influence on popular culture. We will read several of Austen’s novels in order to develop an appreciation of her incisive wit and distinctive style, and will also watch some film adaptations as a way of considering how and why her work continues to resonate. Whether you’ve never read a Jane Austen novel before or you’re already a devoted fan, this class is perfect for any student who wants to learn more about Jane Austen and her world, and how it relates to our own.

Core C2 - History

HIST 195-01 Reacting to the Past
CRN # 41025
Katrina Olds
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 9:15–10:20 a.m.

Join us this semester for an experience that will turn the typical “Western Civilization” survey on its head. Instead of listening quietly while the professor lectures, you will play a series of historical role-playing games that will plunge you into the political, religious, intellectual, and social controversies that rocked Europe before 1800. You and your classmates will become important figures in highly charged moments in history. While using actual historical sources, you will strategize with teammates, engage in factional debates, and try to defeat opponents, before ultimately arriving at a resolution (and the occasional assassination). Outside the game, we will enrich our learning through outings to local museums, small group meetings, and films. Game topics may include: democracy in ancient Greece; Christianity in the Roman Empire; the Crusades; the French Revolution; and England under Henry VIII.

HIST 195-02 Warfare in U.S. History
CRN # 41026
Bernard von Bothmer
Tue. & Thu. 8:00–9:45 a.m.

This seminar will be a survey of the causes, major fighting, and consequences of the key military campaigns waged by (and in) the United States from European settlement to the present. The focus of the course will be to explain why the wars were fought, how they were won (or, in Vietnam, lost), and how they changed the course of history. Throughout the semester, we will wrestle with the moral and ethical issues raised by these conflicts. Topics will include: the Wars of the Indigenous Peoples of North America; the War of Independence; the War of 1812; the Civil War; World War One; World War Two; the Cold War; the Vietnam War; and the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This course serves to help students to examine closely the historical issues surrounding the military history of the United States and to think critically about how the past effects the present.

Core D1 - Philosophy

PHIL 195-01 What is Wisdom?
CRN # 41269
Thomas Cavanaugh
Thu. 8:00–11:40 a.m.

Literally, philosophy means the love of wisdom. So, philosophy is about our desire for knowledge, like wisdom. What is wisdom? Who is wise? Does wisdom make us happy? Is ignorance bliss? Why pursue wisdom? Wanting wisdom, yet not sure of what it is, we will ask these and other questions: does suffering lead to wisdom? does wisdom comfort the wise person? does the wise person comfort others? are science and technology wisdom? do they require wisdom to be used well? how does your USF education fit into a search for wisdom? is wisdom worth pursuing? We will ask these questions relying on Socrates, Confucius, Descartes, and the French existentialist Simone Weil; by reading the Tao Te Ching and novels such as Brave New World; by watching movies like The Matrix and Gattaca. We will also visit the San Francisco Asian Art Museum to see fascinating ancient objects related to Confucianism.

PHIL 195-03 or -04 Minds and Machines
CRN # 41271 or #42497
Nick Leonard
Mon. 11:45 a.m.–3:25 p.m. or Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.
Rebecca Mason or Nick Leonard

You spend your entire life inside your own head. Despite the fact that you are directly acquainted with your thoughts and experiences, the human mind is in many ways more mysterious than even the far reaches of the universe. In this course, we will investigate the nature of the mind, and the relationship between the mind, the brain, and the body. How could a certain neuron firing in your brain give rise to your experience of pain? Is there something special about the biological brain, or are our brains just “meat machines” that are no different than a highly sophisticated computer? We will also critically examine some of the ethical and social implications of artificial intelligence. For example, what would happen if technology permanently replaced a great deal of human labor? Would it enable us to pursue lives of leisure, or would it deepen existing inequalities and increase human suffering?

Core D2 - Theology and Religious Studies

THRS 195-01 Jews, Judaism, and Jewish Identities
CRN # 41481
Aaron Hahn-Tapper
Thu. 12:45–4:25 p.m.

As individuals and communities, we enact constructed senses of self—identities—through our behavior and experiences. Shaped by cultures, value systems, histories, and narratives, our identities relate to virtually every aspect of our lives. This class asks students to explore this central part of being human, using “Jews” as an entry point. Rooted in Hahn Tapper’s award-winning book Judaisms—written precisely for this course—we ask “what does it mean to be a Jew in the 21st century?” in an effort to figure out students’ own social identities. We will look at how Jews have reshaped their customs, practices, and beliefs over the course of centuries, weaving together dominant and marginalized voices along the way. Each week, class will be held at an off-campus site of importance to Jewish communities in San Francisco, such as Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, Contemporary Jewish Museum, JCCSF, and much more.

THRS 195-02 Transcendence in Film & Fiction
CRN # 41729
Mark Miller
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15 p.m.–3:20 p.m.

Why do we live?  What is real?  How do we know?  Human living is in many ways problematic.  Are there ultimately any answers?  In this course, we shall examine human life from its darkest depths to its most brilliant heights – from sin, nihilism, and violence to virtue, love, and reconciliation.  A community’s narratives, told in various forms, are considered a privileged way of sharing and reflecting on such fundamental questions, in part because they affect the whole person.  We shall examine the heights and depths of human life as narrated in novels and movies that stimulate our senses and our imaginations, challenge our meanings and values, and guide our actions and our lives.  

THRS 195-03 Transcendence in Film & Fiction
CRN # 41481
Cathal Doherty, S.J.
Tue. & Thu. 8:00–9:45 a.m.

Why do we live?  What is real?  How do we know?  Human living is in many ways problematic.  Are there ultimately any answers?  In this course, we shall examine human life from its darkest depths to its most brilliant heights – from sin, nihilism, and violence to virtue, love, and reconciliation.  A community’s narratives, told in various forms, are considered a privileged way of sharing and reflecting on such fundamental questions, in part because they affect the whole person.  We shall examine the heights and depths of human life as narrated in novels and movies that stimulate our senses and our imaginations, challenge our meanings and values, and guide our actions and our lives.  

THRS 195-04 Buddhisms in San Francisco
CRN # 41484
John Nelson
Fri. 11:45 a.m.–3:25 p.m.

Where should we begin to assess “Buddhisms in San Francisco”?  With the quality of instruction at various temples and centers? With outreach programs that work with prisoners, marginalized populations, and womens' groups? Or maybe we should look at the scandals that pop up periodically and ensnare teachers and staff in salacious news reports?  This first-semester seminar will touch on all of the above as we move around the city to visit a variety of Buddhist temples and investigate their goals.  Even if the Buddhist names don't yet have much meaning for you (Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana, and more), you'll soon glean their essential teachings as they are adapted and streamlined for San Francisco-style Buddhist practice.   Note that we will also take an overnight retreat in early November, so hold on to your hat for this exciting seminar!

Core D3 - Ethics

PHIL 195-02 When East Meets West
CRN # 41270
David Kim
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 11:45 a.m.–12:50 p.m.

This seminar introduces students to ethical traditions in Asia and the West, and how to compare and integrate these traditions. It also offers an introduction to various ethical dimensions of East-West encounter, especially across the last century and with special attention paid to U.S.-Asia relations. We will begin by addressing various elements of moral philosophy in Aristotle, Kant, and Mill, and the ethics of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. The course will then investigate through film and philosophy the modern encounter between various Asian and Western peoples and the ethical orientations they brought to the bear in the battlefield, the halls of congress, courts of law, the home, the construction of identity, the transformation of culture, and other aspects of social life.

Core E - Social Sciences

BAIS 195-01 The Immigrant Experience
CRN # 42637
Laleh Shahideh
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 11:45 a.m.–12:50 p.m.

The U.S. immigrant population stood at more than 42.4 million, or 13.3 percent, of the total U.S. population of 318.9 million in 2014, according to ACS data. Although we pride ourselves to be one of the most diverse countries in the world, the 2016 Presidential election showed a biased opinion regarding immigrants. This seminar draws from a variety of disciplines (e.g., international studies, philosophy, neuroscience) and provides a safe and exciting environment for students to engage in one-on-one conversations, and to learn about the experiences of various immigrant populations in San Francisco (e.g., Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Irish, Iranian, etc.). Students will learn tangible techniques to develop deep relationships with one another and a better understanding of themselves, while participating in field trips to SF museums, exploring diverse cuisines, and building lasting friendships.

CDS 195-01 Youth in the City
CRN # 40707
Melissa Ann Canlas
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 1:00 p.m.–2:05 p.m.

Youth are everywhere, yet at the same time they are seemingly nowhere. Considered by many to be a temporary, transitional stage between childhood and adulthood, those label as “the youth” are often read as apathetic, with a self-centric way of carrying on with life. However, generation after generation, youth represent to many the key, and strongest hope for a more advanced, inclusive and diversified future.This course focuses on youth movements in the United States, with the mission of seeking and securing social justice for those positioned as marginalized groups. We will examine the adaptive capabilities and strengths of selected youth led movements, as well as their weaknesses and shortcomings. This course will provide a historical understanding of youth led/participation in movements in multiple generations, along with the space to capture/generate questions, concerns and develop class projects that will help the participants in this course tackle the difficult question, “What is my generation’s mission(s)?”

ENVA 195-01 Food & Farming in San Francisco
CRN # 40948
Rachel Lee
Fri. 11:45 a.m.–3:25 p.m.

Food and Farming in San Francisco begins with a broad overview of our current industrial food system and its many attendant societal problems, including widespread food insecurity, massive food waste, and growing food deserts. Next, we explore local alternatives to industrial agriculture, including urban agriculture, small-scale food purveyors, and more communal and equitable forms of food distribution. Along the way, we will get our hands dirty with garden work days at the USF Community Garden, the New Liberation Garden in the Western Addition, and the Tenderloin People’s Garden; with field trips to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Off the Grid on Haight, and GLIDE’s Feed the Hungry program in the Tenderloin; and with cooking/preserving workshops in the USF Garden and at nearby St Cyprian’s Church.

KIN 195-01 Physical Activity in San Francisco
CRN # 42761
Jake Havenar
Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

Did you know that San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area is consistently ranked in the top five according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s American Fitness Index? Physical activity behavior and the resultant health benefits are not solely determined by the individual. Many variables related to your local environment influence your exercise habits. In this course you will have the opportunity to take advantage of your unique surroundings to discover how you can become more active. In addition, you will learn invaluable information to share with others who are trying to become more active no matter where they live.

MS 195-01 Media Mashup: Popular Culture in San Francisco
CRN # 41199
John Higgins
Wed. 11:45 a.m.–3:25 p.m.

How do media and culture reflect struggles in society between competing individuals and groups? In what ways do Pop cultures, like Laffing Sal from the old San Francisco amusement park Playland at the Beach or the murals of the Mission District, struggle against Elite cultures, such as classic ”fine art” paintings at the art museum? What part might comics, social media, and social science play in this discussion? Mashup is a First Year Seminar that fulfills USF’s requirement in Core E: Social Science. We interpret “media” broadly. Through readings, discussions, and field trips we’ll dig into the meanings of the media and cultural mashups we consume . . . and create some of our own media stories as well.

SOC 195-01 Engaging Political Islam
CRN # 42638
Sadia Saeed
Tue. & Thu. 2:40–4:35 p.m.

What is the relationship between Islam and politics? In what ways has this relationship changed over time? How is Islam represented in Western media? We address these and related question in Islam, Politics, Society. The course will begin with an introduction to the basic elements of Islamic faith and history. We will then explore the broad and oftentimes controversial topic of political Islam through a range of materials including academic writings, films, popular media, and group research projects. In the process, we will get versed on key debates on democracy, social movements, civil society, colonialism, Islamic revival, and gender and minority issues. Throughout the course, students will critically evaluate popular stereotypes of Islam while enhancing their understanding of central social, political and legal issues in Muslim societies.  [This course also meets the "CD" or Cultural Diversity requirement.]

Core F - Visual & Performing Arts

DANC 195-01 Dance in San Francisco
CRN # 40862
Natalie Greene
Tue. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

San Francisco is home to one of the most vibrant and diverse dance communities in the country. Exploring the range of movement styles, dance artists, companies, and organizations at work in the Bay Area provides us with a unique opportunity to understand the vanguard of contemporary performance and the many historical and cultural threads that underlie these practices. By participating in a range of movement classes both on and off campus, attending performances, learning from guest artists, and engaging in both academic and creative movement activities, students will discover the ways dance both supports and challenges dominant cultural values, narratives, and ideals of its time. (No prior dance experience necessary).

MUS 195-01 Opera in San Francisco
CRN # 41248
Alexandra Amati
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m.

Opera: where you can do anything so long as you sing it! This course explores the world of opera and the issues presented in (or hidden under) beautiful singing. We will learn about this often extravagant art form and what it says about the society in and for which it was created. We will deepen our discussion by attending three performances at the San Francisco Opera, one of the top three companies in the country. In class we will discuss the readings and bring the issues up to date through our own experiences, and we will study and view/listen to portions of operas from 1600s Italy to 21st century USA. No knowledge of music necessary, only curiosity, interest in challenging deep-seated assumptions, and openness to new ideas. Readiness to have fun a plus!

THTR 195-01 Theater in San Francisco
CRN # 41523
Gabe Maxson
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to one of the most vibrant, diverse, and dynamic theater communities in the country. In this course we will examine historical and current trends and themes of San Francisco’s theater and its development within the context of the region’s rich history as a center of social and political activism and experimentation; we will attend, study, and review a variety of performances by local companies large and small, in order to develop our own individual critical responses to, expectations of, and attitudes about, the artistic works we encounter.